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With no domestic recycling, Kurdistan exports plastic, cardboard waste

By Rawa Abdullah 15/6/2018
Plastic waste floats in Kurdistan’s Little Zab River. Photo: Hannah Lynch | Rudaw
Plastic waste floats in Kurdistan’s Little Zab River. Photo: Hannah Lynch | Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Region sells thousands of tons of plastic and cardboard waste to Turkish companies who recycle it and sell the products back in Kurdistan. 

Over the past two years, the KRG had issued 42 licenses to export 431,000 tons of waste plastic and cardboard.

“Due to the lack of recycling companies, for several years we have been allowing the exportation of cardboard and plastic to Turkey. In doing so, we aim to keep the environment clean and turn these used items into revenue for those collecting them,” explained Nawzad Adham, director general of trade at KRG’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Plastic and cardboard from industrial sources is collected and sold to traders who export the recyclable materials. The KRG charges small license and customs fees on the materials.

“Annually, I export 15 to 20,000 tons of used cardboard to Turkey. I buy 70 percent of this from Iraqi cities and the rest from the Kurdistan Region’s factories,” said Arkan Abduljabar Mahmud, general manager of Dilke Company.

He makes about $30 to $40 profit per ton of cardboard, buying it at $70 to $75 per ton and selling it at $100 to $110. Turkey’s falling currency has hit is profits hard.

“Last year, Turkish companies bought one ton of cardboard from us for $210. This year, due to falling value of the lira, they buy one ton of cardboard for $100 to $110.” 

“Turkish factories sell back one ton of cardboard for $500 to $1000, depending on the quality,” Arkan explained. “This price is nearly 5 to 10 times the price of what we sell them.”

There are no companies in the Kurdistan Region recycling cardboard. The five factories making cardboard depend on raw material from Turkey.

Fahmi Karim exports 360 tons of used cardboard to Turkey every year and imports 8,000 tons of raw materials for his factory. 

“We first thought about building a factory to recycle used cardboard. But building an advanced factory costs nearly $20 million, and we can’t afford that. In addition, its product might not all sell here,” Karim explained.

“In order for such a project to be a success, the government should either have a share in it or give long-term loans and prevent cardboard imports. Otherwise, due to imports from Turkey, the factory will face problems selling its product and will not succeed in the end.” 

Small amounts of plastic are recycled by Kurdish companies to make household items like pipes and bags. 
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